By Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A man who had his face fractured by a San Francisco Police Dept. officer had all charges against him dismissed Tuesday after the SF Public Defender’s Office insisted he had not committed a crime—the prosecutor agreed “in light of the overwhelming evidence,” said the PD Office.
Sergio Lugo was charged with assault on an officer, exhibiting a deadly weapon to resist arrest, and three counts of resisting arrest using force, and spent more than four months in jail.
“This week, as the case was getting ready to go to trial—six months after his trial deadline had passed—the defense argued that Mr. Lugo had committed no crime and the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case in light of the overwhelming evidence,” said the PD Office in a statement.
“The police had no right to detain, search, initiate force, and escalate force against Mr. Lugo who committed no crime. Police created this situation, and, given the evidence, the prosecution finally did the right thing and dismissed these charges,” argued Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, who represented Lugo.
PD Pray said she has filed a complaint with the Department of Police Accountability on behalf of Lugo.
The PD said “plainclothes police illegally detained him in February 2021. Police claimed that the altercation resulted in superficial wounds to an officer. The defense presented evidence that contested the illegal detention and eyewitness testimony from neighbors who consistently described what they observed as a ‘beating’ of Mr. Lugo.”
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office released photos of the injuries.
Apparently, officers detained Lugo in the Castro District in the early morning hours, although they admitted he had not committed a crime.
When, said PD Pray, Lugo asserted his right not to be searched, “[w]ithout any verbal warning, the two officers grabbed his arm, kicked his legs out from under him, and pinned him on the ground. A third officer joined, who later admitted to hitting Mr. Lugo 15-25 times.”
The PD Office continued, “When police first encountered Mr. Lugo, he was holding a silver object in his hand, which police thought was a vape pen. All parties agree that when police pinned Mr. Lugo, the cap fell off, revealing that it was an X-Acto knife—a small pen-shaped tool with a sharp edge often used in crafts.
“The sharp edge caused superficial cuts to one officer’s pinkie and knee, but the officers’ blows to Mr. Lugo’s head sent him to the hospital with bruises, lacerations, and a fractured cheekbone.”
The Public Defender’s office noted, “Several neighbors testified that they heard more than they could see, but what they observed caused two people to call the police. Their statements were consistent in that the three men on top were beating the man on the ground who was screaming in pain.
“I know that many people still find it hard to believe that police in San Francisco harass, detain, illegally search, and violently attack people, and then file charges to justify their actions. Sadly, these are the types of cases that people in our communities and Public Defenders have to fight against.”
“(It is) part of the reason why it is so important for our courts to schedule more trials,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, who sued the San Francisco Superior Court in September 2021 to address the growing backlog of trials.